If you’re already plugged into what we do here at Technical.ly, then you’re well aware that the first months of the year mark the time when we announce the new edition of our RealLIST Startups. And if you don’t know, here’s a refresher: In each of the main markets we cover, our reporters annually list around 20 startups — 10 main honorees and 10 honorable mentions — that we deem worth watching in the new year.
This year’s qualifying companies needed to be founded in 2020 or later (although we considered some exceptions, as noted below); generate most of their revenue from selling a “product,” which largely invalidated consultancies and agencies; and not have undergone an exit event, like an IPO or acquisition. We put these criteria to you in Slack and newsletter callouts and held them against our coverage over the past few years, including items like our quarterly PitchBook Venture Monitor analyses and Technical.ly Awards that note significant raises and product releases by companies within our geographies.
While the final list you’ll see below took high-raising companies into account, we also sought to highlight innovative companies impacting fields beyond those like biotech and cybersecurity that seemingly dominate the local tech investment market. In addition, this list takes into account companies from throughout the Baltimore area, including its suburbs and surrounding counties.
All of this said, we largely still approached this year’s RealLIST like those we’ve published for six years running — with nuance and an eye for where we see growth and need. Those lists have frequently predicted growth trajectories and other developments that we’ve covered as often as possible, as well.
Without further ado, here are the Baltimore region’s startups to watch in 2023:
Founded in 2021 and led by CEO Hafeezah Muhammad, this Windsor Mill-based company operates a telehealth platform offering comprehensive mental health services for children and families. The $287,500 raise it logged last month was one of the tops of Q4 2022, adding to a Crunchbase-reported $1.5 million in pre-seed funding from early 2022.
9. MIRA1a Therapeutics
Drawing from research by chief scientific officer and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine adjunct professor Adam Paplin, East Baltimore’s MIRA1a Therapeutics (also known as MIRA Pharmaceuticals) is innovating in pain management by developing a namesake drug that replicates cannabis’s anti-inflammatory qualities without side affects like hunger or anxiousness.
As it prepares MIRA1a for Food and Drug Administration approval, the company is riding high on the nearly $7 million seed it raised last year — one of 2022’s largest for a Baltimore city-based company.
Cofounded by regional tech mainstay Jim Keeney (who also serves as the company’s CEO) and Dan Maisano, this Anne Arundel County-based startup helps companies better track expenditures by integrating accounting, payroll and other processes related to compensation. Like the aforementioned startups, Dapt raised enough money in 2022 — about $2 million in seed funding — to flag the attention of PitchBook’s quarterly Venture Monitor.
7. Balance Theory
Founded in early 2022 by Nathan Necaise, Lisa Mathias and CEO Greg Baker, this Columbia-HQed startup created a cybersecurity platform to help companies’ cyber teams more seamlessly collaborate, report incidents and transfer knowledge among one another. Since its creation, it landed $3 million in a seed round led by DataTribe, which also named Balance Theory the winner of its fifth DataTribe Challenge.
Coming in at the halfway spot is another exception to the aforementioned rule, as this company goes back at least as far as founder Rebecca Rosenberg’s victory at a late 2019 undergraduate pitch competition. What ultimately pushed ReBokeh into this year’s RealLIST is the sheer volume of high-profile accomplishments that the startup, whose signature product is a mobile app whose camera filters help people with visual impairments experience the world more clearly, experienced over the past year.
These include graduating from Towson University’s StarTUp at the Armory accelerator, being accepted into the latest Techstars Equitech Accelerator cohort, a recent honor as a finalist in the 2023 South by Southwest pitch competition and exhibiting at the CES trade show earlier this month. Oh, and it was profiled by the BBC:
4. Mooji Meats
Coming in our fourth spot is one of only two Baltimore companies to make it into the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator — an early launchpad for major companies like Reddit and DoorDash — since spring 2021.
The honor portends big things for the food tech startup, which uses 3D printing to create plant-based alternative meat that its founders purport is more realistic-tasting and resource-effective than other meatless options. Cofounded by CEO Insa Mohr and Johns Hopkins assistant professor Jochen Mueller, Mooji Meats has already secured at least $3 million in seed funding from investors like The Good Startup and Collaborative Fund, which previously funded Impossible and Beyond brands.
With alternative energy and affiliated tech growing more important as climate change accelerates, WeSolar is working to bring the benefits of the solar economy and energy efficiency to marginalized communities. Its model of community solar, through which the company provides residences and businesses with solar energy options that don’t require installation fees or obtrusive rooftop panels, has helped WeSolar land a $25 million solar farm contract with the University of Maryland Medical System. Legislative staffer-turned-founder and CEO Kristal Hansley’s vision has also earned attention from brand-name media outlets and federal leaders alike.
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2. Haystack Oncology
Based on the research of influential oncological scholars at Johns Hopkins University and its School of Medicine, Haystack Oncology is developing a personalized diagnostic test for various types of cancer. Last year, the Remington neighborhood-HQed biotech startup’s clinical intervention nabbed investment so large that it stands out even by the standards of Baltimore’s crowded life sciences market: Its Catalio Capital Management-lead Series A initially came in at $56 million, and the company ended 2022 with over $63 million in equity. That’s near the top of 2022 fundraising tallies for local companies.
Taking this year’s coveted top spot is another Johns Hopkins medical spinout that nonetheless distinguished itself from other similarly oriented RealLIST candidates in a few ways. For one: its research-informed development of a novel neurological device that can wirelessly bypass the blood-brain barrier and administer chronic brain disease treatments more effectively. Second: its raising nearly $20 million in early-stage funding.
But what makes CraniUS stand out most is its seeming success in combining experience across generations and industries. Its CEO is a former executive of Baltimore-bred apparel giant Under Armour. One cofounder is a Johns Hopkins scholar, while the other is a recent alum of the prestigious private university (as is its director of mechanical engineering). As the company moves closer to federal health and standards trials, we see big things for CraniUS.
Honorable mentions, in no particular order
- Let’s Tap In — Founded barely a year ago by a trio of recent Towson University alums, this startup’s signature product is a mobile app that aggregates user- and venue-submitted details and ratings about bars, restaurants entertainment and related offerings in regional nightlife hubs. This year, Let’s Tap In graduated from the founders’ alma mater’s StarTUp at the Armory accelerator, secured contracts with such nightlife properties as Power Plant Live! and won $12,500 as a finalist of the e-Fest student entrepreneurship competition.
- Upfront Capital — Cofounded in November 2020 by ex-staffers of EcoMap Technologies (another 2022 RealLIST Startup) and Early Charm Ventures, this Catonsville-based fintech company aims to democratize the entertainment industry with a soon-to-launch platform that allows individual fans to directly invest in their favorite musicians’ royalties. The company, which boasts 12 employees throughout the US and UK, is currently raising a Series A.
- impathi — This 2022 AccelerateBaltimore cohort graduate uses AI and deep learning on its platform, which helps medical providers, patients and insurers better coordinate hospice care and end-of-life transitions.
- Fem Equity — Led by 24-year-old CEO Adeola Ajani, Fem Equity operates a software platform and app that offers real-time information and resources on sexist and racist pay gaps. Since late 2021, Ajani and the company have landed in both Johns Hopkins’ Social Innovation Lab and TEDCO’s inaugural Open Institute for Black Women Entrepreneur Excellence program.
- Drūl — Led by two Johns Hopkins biomolecular engineers and doctoral candidates, this startup is developing tech to transform dental care by more effectively and quickly detecting oral diseases.
- SharpRank — Bolstered by a $2.5 million, TEDCO-led seed round earlier this year, this Timonium-HQed startup is building tech infrastructure to help qualify so-called sports betting experts. CEO Chris Adams founded SharpRank in 2020 amid a rise of legalized mobile sports betting around the country; the company has already landed partnerships with peer-to-peer betting platform Prophet Exchange and athletic media mainstay Sports Illustrated.
- Alloy Sports — Speaking of sports betting, the company formerly known as Fanalysts is well-positioned to succeed in the sports betting boom. The Baltimore County-based New Venture Challenge finalist helps users create or implement pre-loaded, data-informed sports betting algorithms and strategies.
- Meridian Health — Led by recent University of Maryland alumna Aishwarya Tare, Meridian Health’s platform supports Gen Z-age young adults’ health outcomes through holistic, chatbot-aided engagement between young people and educational institutions. It is the only company featured in this article to also participate in Johns Hopkins’ current Social Innovation Lab cohort.
- Blvck Door — Cofounders Iman Carr and Shakeel Alexander won the Maryland Institute College of Art’s UP/Start Venture Competition this year, receiving $40,000 to support their platform to connect creative professionals of color with employers.
- Sicura — A runner-up in last year’s RealLIST, this cybersecurity company continues to thrive. In 2022, Sicura landed a spot in the Maryland Department of Commerce’s delegation to the Startup Grind Global Conference, wrapped a seed round and earned an ExportMD grant for international expansion. While former COO Arianne Price started 2023 in a new position with seed round leader Squadra Ventures, the future looks bright for Sicura.
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